Animal Diaries Archive
The Uncommon Wombat
13 June 2008
When patrons see me cuddling and interacting with our beautiful wombats, they often say, “you have the best job in the world” and I proudly agree. Everyday I feel so lucky to work with these animals but feel sad to contemplate their fragility; knowing that in the future some of them may not be around for us to enjoy and appreciate.
On May 16, Australia Zoo hosted “Black and White Day”, raising money and awareness for our endangered Tasmanian Devil. This very special event was initiated by a nine year old boy, we know as ‘Nature Nic’, and inspired me to think that someone so young can take such an active role in conserving our wildlife. It further raised my awareness of other native wildlife that is in danger of extinction, one of these being our Northern Hairy-nosed Wombat (Lasiorhinus krefftii).
At Australia Zoo we have two of the three wombat species, the Common and Southern Hairy-nosed Wombat. The rarest of the species, the Northern Hairy-nosed Wombat can only be found in the Epping Forest National Park, northwest of Clermont in Central Queensland. This area of approximately 300 hectares was established in 1971 to protect their habitat and declining population, which was as low as 35 individuals.
To date, their numbers have increased to approximately 113 but sustainability of the species is dependant on our climate and protection of their habitat. Breeding of the Northern Hairy-nosed Wombat relies heavily on rainfall. Females can breed, on average, twice every three years with usually one joey per litter. However, it is very rare that this birthrate is achieved as there are rarely three good rainfall years in a row. In addition, this species lives in a harsh climate with very hot summers and long periods of dry weather. Another problem that continues to make the Northern Hairy-nosed Wombat so vulnerable is that there is only one colony left in the world. This makes them highly susceptible to disease, inbreeding, fire and natural disasters.
I know this article won’t immediately save this critically endangered species, but hopefully it has raised some awareness, so that we can work together to make sure that the largest hebivorous mammal in the world is around for our future generations to enjoy.